Thursday, June 30, 2005

Lovers Change

This is another 'Changing' Story. One of the times I wrote two stories for one week. This one is fairly close to plagarism or whatever. See if you can figure out which country music artist would come after me if I ever tried to sell this story :) Like the previous story it was written in late January of 2000.

What a shock it was to see you last night in the mall. I've not seen you for nearly 6 months now. Haven't heard a word from you for that long.

You looked so good, just as I remember. You were wearing my shirt I gave you long ago when you asked for something to remember me by. You were laughing and happy and I felt good until I noticed you were with HIM. Why would you wear my shirt with him? I guess you don't think of me when you wear it.

It hurt seeing you so happy with someone else but then when I said hello and you introduced me as someone you used to know… Is that all I am? Just a guy from school?

Have you told him about the weekends at the beach? The long walks at night with the moon and the water and making love with the sound of the ocean washing over us as the light of the moon made you glow like an angel?

Have you told him how we used to argue about who loved who the most? That, at least, is settled since I still love you so and I'm just someone you used to know.

Have you told him about me at all? About how we'd lie together and talk for hours, about the time we took a shower in the rain, about the breakfasts in bed when you were sick. We shared so much and yet it all seems for naught considering I'm just someone you used to know.

I don't know how it changed or when but it hurts so much hearing that phrase echoing in my head and knowing that to you now I'm just someone you used to know.

Well good bye….and remember….I love you more.

Vaughn's Changing

This story marked my first, and thus far I believe, only foray into the genre of fantasy. I love to read fantasy, what I wouldn't do to be one of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, or to live in the universe of "The Rowan". Until they got tedious (to me) I really enjoyed Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" books, the early ones are still great I think. Who wouldn't one day want to wake up to find themselves a mighty wizard or the rider of a huge dragon? I'm not terribly thrilled with this story but I keep thinking about it over five years after I wrote it so I have a feeling it will resurface in my writing in one way, shape or form in the future. It was written in late January of 2000 for the AOL short story contest. The theme that week was "Changing". As usual I know I had trouble adhering to the 1000 word limit that existed at the time. One thing this contest taught me was a bit of brevity which is NOT my strong suit at ALL. (If you've ever gotten an email from me you know that lol).

Pandemonium reigned as Vaughn stepped out into the street, only to be nearly run over by a warrior on his horse, galloping to the summons. Jumping back, Vaughn heard him mutter, "Damn useless boy, out of my way!" as he swung his steed to avoid the lad. As were all the men in the village, he was drawn inexorably by the bell ringing madly at the village center, and continued on his way.

The great gates closed with a clang as Vaughn hurried by, and was stopped by Meredith and Mair. "What is it Vaughn? What's happening?" Meredith asked, her soft green eyes framed by her flaming red hair.

"It's the Gath! Their army has been spotted!" interrupted Gwalter, as he rushed past them, fastening his long sword. "This is no time for women and children in the streets, so do get yourselves inside!"

"I'm no child Gwalter, I've as many years as you have!" Vaughn shouted after him, in his usual squeaky, breaking voice. Gwalter gave no sign of having heard as he hurried on.

"Well, you're no man either, Vaughn. You can't think you compare to a strong warrior like Gwalter!" Mair said scornfully. "And don't try to tell me about being some great wizard's apprentice.  Nwython is gone now, and you have no master."

Vaughn took in both Mair's mocking and Meredith's pitying looks, and slunk off to the rooms he'd shared with old Nwython for these past five years.  He now lived alone there, since the wizard's passing several months ago.

The subsequent news of the raging battle did not bode well. The army of Gath was pushing on relentlessly toward the village, which would soon be under siege. So Vaughn spent the next few days studying the old volumes that Nwython had left him, thinking about all the wizard had tried to teach him. Suddenly, Vaughn slammed the last book closed, and cried out loud, "Why did you pick such a useless apprentice, Nwython? What good am I to anyone? I do all like you taught me, yet nothing works. And  who would ever tremble with fear at the name of Vaughn, as they did when the wrath of Nwython was aroused?"

He was silenced by a knock on the door.  And when Vaughn opened it, Meredith walked in, looking very frightened.

"Vaughn it goes badly, and I'm afraid! Our warriors have been pushed back and the village is surrounded.  Is there naught you can do?"

"Me? You heard Gwalter and Mair--I'm just a child, apprentice to no master! Of what use could I possibly be?"

"Oh Vaughn, Nwython was the greatest wizard of our age, and he trained you for five years! Surely he taught you something that will allow you to take up his sword and staff, and vanquish our foes as he would have!"

"But nothing I try works, Meredith! I fear I am just a failure." At that admission, Vaughn threw himself into a chair and put his head between his hands.

Suddenly, they became aware of a glow in the room, and he heard Meredith's breath catch. They looked up and saw Nwython standing by the work table, as Vaughn had seen him so many times before. Yet now, he could also see through him, as he stood there in a blue glow.

"Nwython?!" Vaughn jumped to his feet. "Thank the gods that you're back to save us from Gath's assail!"

"Did you learn nothing, my son? This is not my time.  That is past, as you well know," Nwython's specter replied. "This is YOUR time. I told you long ago that you would recognize the moment when you would come into your own, and become a wizard in your own right. Now is that time."

"But nothing I do works! I do not know enough, and I have so much more to learn!" Vaughn protested.

"You've got to believe in what I taught you--and in yourself," Nwython responded earnestly.

"But how can I? No one takes me seriously. They think I'm just a boy pretending to be a man, and can do naught to save the village!"

"I believe in you, Vaughn," Meredith said in a small voice, looking up at him.

" DO?" Vaughn asked incredulously.

"Yes. I've watched you going about your lessons when I could sneak sight of them, and I've seen you do wondrous things as Nwython taught you. That's why I came to you. Now is the time we need you... I need you, Vaughn."

He took her words in, and looked over at Nwython.

Gesturing toward a side table where lay his old robe and weaponry, Nwython commanded, "Take up your raiment, your sword, and your staff, and assume the destiny for which I've prepared you!"

Vaughn turned around and saw Meredith's eyes widen, and then looked back to Nwython. If they believed so strongly in him, he felt he must also! He slipped into the robe, buckled on the sword, and took up the staff.  And as he did, he felt himself growing, enlarging somehow.

"Truly you are ready now, my son. No more are you Vaughn, wizard's apprentice. Nay, there stands Kyleder, mighty wizard of village Kedesh, destined to be known as the son of Nwython, and most powerful of all time. Go forth and take up your destiny." With those words, Nwython's spirit faded.

Vaughn noted his reflection in the window glass noting the changes. He no longer saw a gangly youth, but a tall, strong wizard dressed in radiant white, the staff in his hand glowing with barely contained power. Truly he saw himself as Kyleder, and now he understood the old wizard's ramblings about this son to whom no one could point.

"I must go now, Meredith. But when I return, we have much to discuss." Then he turned and strode out the door. Drawing his sword from its sheath with a mighty ring that reverberated throughout the village, he strode toward his destiny.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Easy Way Out?

This was my first story written in 2000. The theme this week was 'Escape'. I'm not sure how this one will be recieved. I do know it didn't win any kind of award. I'm just posting them as I wrote them. I can see a lot that could be re-written in this one. 

Yeah I know Susan you're my daughter and I love you dearly but you don't know as much about your old mom as you think you do. You say you're fed up with Fred and just can't take it anymore. Well I understand that.

Oh I know you always thought your Daddy and I had a perfect marriage. We tried not to ever fight in front of you kids or drag you into our problems. But believe me baby girl they were there whether you saw them or not.

I myself was close to leaving on many an occasion for a few years. Things would just get so overwhelming with you kids to raise and a house to run and everything. There was a time I could find so much wrong. Your daddy and I were drifting apart. He had his career and I had you all and the house. We had no interests in common anymore.

What honey? Yeah I know now we do lots of things together. Do you think that just happened? We had to learn to do that. We had to seek out things in common and work hard on enjoying them together.

There was a time when I could barely even talk to your father though. It seemed to me like he'd stopped loving me. He'd go to work and come home and play with you kids and then by the time you were all in bed and it was my time with him he'd be too tired to do anything but go to sleep. I even had a period of time that I resented you kids for taking my husband from me.

I wanted to leave really bad. I even went as far as to look at apartments and look into getting a job. I also ended up finding a friend that understood me. He was going through the same things in his life. He felt his wife no longer loved him, she hadn't had sex with him in a couple of years except as kind of an afterthought and it was never pleasant for him and they were drifting apart. We met….well where we met doesn't matter but we talked with increasing frequency until we were at the point of talking a couple of times a day. Anytime we could work it in.

Yes honey I had an affair with him. I shouldn't have I know. But to tell the truth it saved my marriage. I don't expect anybody to believe that but as pleasant as it was to get everything I wanted and missed at home I never gave up getting that from your Daddy and began to learn to talk to him and teach him what I wanted. I also learned to look at what he was doing right.

Why didn't I leave if I was so unhappy? Why don't you? The same reasons I bet in large part. First of all once I looked at it I really did love your Daddy but that took a while to see. I liked the lifestyle he provided me. I was afraid of what it would be like "out there". Would my friend and I really be happy together. Would he even really leave his wife? Oh I found millions of reasons to stay and millions of reasons to leave it seemed.

Remember the story I told you about the old hound dog on the porch who was laying on the nail and would howl every now and then but how it didn't hurt enough for him to move. I came to realize I was like that. It didn't hurt enough to make me really move.

Oh Susan dear there were days when I wanted to run away so bad. Just leave everything and escape. I wanted it so bad I'd lie in bed and cry all day while you kids were gone to school. But then slowly as time passed and our affair started to kind of wind down I realized that I did love your daddy. And what's more my friend realized he really loved his wife. We eventually ended things. We still keep in touch and I know he tried to make things work for years before his wife finally asked for a divorce. It turns out she later had an affair and left him.

No honey I've not seriously been tempted to go be with him now. At one time I would have but for one thing he's never asked and never will while your daddy and I are doing well.

Oh yes Daddy knows, he's known longer than I thought he knew but he is not a stupid man. He knows me very well and knows that if he'd told me to stop or leave I'd have left at that point. It is he says why he started working harder on our marriage together, just another reason I'm saying my affair saved my marriage.

No as far as I know he's never done it. I'm not going to ask because I don't want to know but I'm pretty sure what the answer would be.

Now honey I'm not telling you to go and have an affair. What I'm telling you is that we all get to a point we want to just run away and escape life. You could do it. You could leave Fred and strike out on your own but honey you married him for a reason and you have several years together. Do you really want to take the easy way out and just escape or do you want to buckle down and build a life for yourself? I can tell you thatwhen you have your family around you on your 50th anniversary as we just have you will be glad you chose the hard road and made it work.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Last Night, First Night

This is one of my favorite stories although I will admit it could still use a bit of work to add a bit more punch. It was written for January 1, 2000. With all the Y2K hysteria I could not resist something like this. I'm not going to delve into the fact that the millenium really began on January 1, 2001or that there are admited errors in the calendar so that it could be off one way or another by up to several decades. I've read all that and with this story was just going after the popular hysteria about what might happen when 1999 ticked over to 2000. I submitted the story on the 29th of December 1999, just in case my computer wouldn't work as of January 1, 2000 :) (I'm kidding, I was not worried at all and was proved correct, but then I guess it was a 50/50 chance so it wasn't exactly a long shot). The theme was "First Night".

Harry watched with satisfaction as the distant lights of the city began to wink out. He had been right. The radio started hissing with static as the station it was tuned to went off the air. The television followed it. Harry could hear now only the faint working of his generator and the hiss of static from the television and radio. All around the glow of lights on the horizon died and for the first time ever Harry saw the true night with no light pollution from surrounding civilization. Even the cars on the highway seemed to be effected Harry noticed for the first time realizing even those lights and sounds were gone.

He felt  bit uneasy at that. Then he turned sharply as his generator stopped and with it the hiss and light of the television and the hiss of the radio. Out of gas maybe, he thought. Although it shouldn't be, came the answering thought, it ought to have gas enough for hours more. The silence was overwhelming almost oppressive. All Harry could hear now was the faint hiss of the Coleman Lantern in his camp as he stood watching the most stars he'd ever seen before.

When the lantern quit Harry started getting scared, much too late of course by now though. Harry watched the stars with trepidation and was not at all surprised to see a dark stain beginning to spread as star after star winked out. His mind argued that some of that light was millions of years old getting to him and that it was not January 1, 2000 where they were. Still the evidence was there. Feeling afraid of the night for the first time in his life Harry pulled his lighter out of his pocket with trembling hands. It was now so dark he literally could not see his hands, only the few stars that remained. He flicked the lighter and screamed in anger and fear when there was not even a spark much less a flame. The matches were next, most scattering out of the box as he fumbled with it in the dark. Almost all the stars were gone now. Harry was panicking, kneeling, desperately trying to light a match but then he realized he could not even tell if he was striking it or not. Harry focused on the last few stars. Watching as one by one they went out.

Harry realized he was screaming like a scared animal as the last star went out. One tiny part of his brain wished that he'd greeted this with more dignity while the rest of his brain screamed as one by one his senses shut down.

So began the first night.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Beach Comfort

This story was written in December of 1999. The theme this week was "comfort". I don't remember the motivation for this story but I think it's at least in part something one of my friends online told me about. Most is, no doubt, my imagination. This story, to me, seems to lack much punch as a story. It does make me want to take a trip to the beach though :)

I was walking slowly along the beach enjoying my solitude. It was a cool day a couple of days after Christmas and I had through the first of the year at the house on Melbourne Beach that my friend was letting me use. I've always liked this beach because there is little public access and only single family homes spread along it so its almost always sparsely populated. On days like today it was usually deserted. I could see a person or two walking up the beach and there were three surfers in wet suits trying their luck. At least I was not the craziest person here.

I was just feeling sorry for myself. Here I was a 45 year old of two grown children newly divorced from a husband who wanted somebody younger and prettier if his new squeeze was any example. I had gotten a good settlement and I had the good luck to have a good ongoing business that I could work from anywhere but all I saw in the mirror anymore were the wrinkles, gray hair and bags under my eyes. I had come face to face with the fact that my days of appealing to men were over. Oh sure my friends tried to tell me different all the time but that's what friends are for, to try to make you feel good even if they have to lie through your teeth.

I was so deep in thought as I shuffled along watching my toes in the sand that at first it didn't register, then I realized that somebody had said hello. I looked up and saw a man standing there with a handful of shells tossing them into the ocean one after another. He was dressed in sweats and wore a wind breaker making me aware for the first time that I was a little cold dressed in only a tee shirt and sweat pants and being barefoot. I never could bring myself to wear shoes on the beach even when it was cold out.

"Hi," I said stopping for some reason. I guess I wanted to talk even if it was to a stranger.  At least a stranger would not have the feeling sorry for me attitude that my friends did. It was wearing old.

"Beautiful day isn't it?" he said smiling at me but something about the smile, the look in his eyes and the way hesaid it I got the feeling that he wasn't feeling like he sounded.

"A bit cool and windy" I said "but the ocean and sky sure are pretty."

He threw a few more shells and for a couple of minutes we stood and looked out at the ocean. I don't know how to describe it but there was no feeling like neither of us wanted to talk and I should keep walking. It felt right just standing there looking at the waves. Maybe I was just tired.

"Those people are nuts" he said as one of the surfers caught a good wave. "Good ride though."

"I've never understood being that dedicated to something like surfing and wanting to do it when its so cold"

"Me either they have to be cold" He said.

"I would think so. I'm starting to wish I'd worn a jacket" I said.

"If you're cold would you like to borrow my windbreaker? The sweatshirt will keep me warm for a bit."

That was when I found myself losing my mind because the next thing I said was "What I'd really like is to share it with you. Could you put your arms around me?"

He moved behind me and wrapped the coat as far around as he could then wrapped his arms around me.

"Better?" He asked? "That's what you wanted?"

"Its wonderful but I can't believe I asked a total stranger to hold me like this" I said quietly. It felt wonderful just to be held again.

"My name is Jay if that helps, tell me yours and we won't be strangers anymore will we?" he asked in my ear.

"That sounds good to me, my name is Lori" I said snuggling back into him a bit more and feeling him rest his cheek against my ear. It felt so warm and reminded me that my ears had been cold too. I found myself moving his hands up slightly to my chest. Again I asked myself if I'd lost my mind but I'd found something I'd been missing for so long and I guess I wanted all I could get.

"I'm glad to meet you Lori. This sure feels good. I think I ought to tell you that I'm married though. On the other hand just an hour ago my wife suggested I take a walk because I was bothering her again I guess. She said maybe I'd find somebody else that lived here that I could spend time with. She's not wanted to be held like this for a long time." Jay said.

I wasn't sure if I was crazy or not but I said "I don't mind Jay. Maybe just maybe fate brought us together to give us what we both need right now." I turned and slid my arms around him inside the jacket. I could feel that I'd already had an effect onhim as I leaned up and kissed him. "Why don't we go to my house and see about warming up a bit?"

We walked the little way down the beach to my house and that afternoon and the couple of days that followed were wonderful. Nothing permanent will or can come out of it I know but we both found comfort when and where we needed it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Next Wave

I took a shot here at some science fiction. I'm not sure what I think of this one. It was written in December of 1999. The theme for the week was pioneers. I have a feeling I was torn here between writing sci-fi and writing a western. Maybe I should have gone with the western?

"So tell me why you all are here" Jim Stephenson heard and as he looked up from his conversation with a little irritation and saw the perky red haired reporter that had been running around talking to everybody on board the UNS Conestoga. He and his tablemates had so far avoided her. That, it seemed, was at an end.

Across the table Carlos Mendez quipped, "Well I'm going to get away from reporters and their questions and the way the media twists everything that is said anyway".

"You wish you were so popular that reporters wanted to bug you", Joanne Foss said from the seat between Jim and Carlos.

"Well I'm going I think because I've always felt the itch my ancestors felt to be out in the wide open spaces, to hunt for their food, to farm as much land as they could handle." Jim said. "Lets face it there are few wide-open spaces left on earth. I'm surprised it's taken this long for something like this to happen."

"Why do you think it did take so long then", the reporter asked.

"Well it seems to me that society reaches a point that a certain element is ready to move out on their own. My own ancestors were pioneers from way back. Some of them left Ireland for America to get more land and have a better opportunity at the kind of life they dreamed of. Some of them found it as soon as they landed here while others ended up pressing on west with other like minded pioneers." Jim answered.

"Its different for me I think", Joanne said quietly, somewhat lost in thought. "I am a scientist, a botanist. I look forward to a new planet to explore, to learning its life forms and helping our Earth plants and even animals adapt to that ecosystem. I also want to get away from the structure of the scientific community here on Earth. Hell people are even saying that what we'll be doing is raping the ecosystem of whichever of the new planet we settle.  Don't they realize we will be stuck living there? We have to be self sufficient what would the purpose be of harming anything. It's a chance to do it right and not end up with the polluted mess we have now. I look forward to a pristine planet to begin anew with. We'vechosen to be an agrarian society with a low level of technology there will be no big manufacturing plants or anything like that. We'll start with clean electric vehicles, clean methods of producing that electricity. Its truly a chance for us to start over and do it right."

"That's interesting, but getting back to why it took so long for this to happen if there was such a readiness for it. What are your opinions?"

"It was mostly political" Carlos said. "Obviously it's a massively expensive operation. It had to be funded by governments. No company was going to do it, not in more than token amounts. We've seen that come to pass."

"First somebody had to get governments together to get serious about space exploration in general. All that crap about exploring the solar system was nice but we knew that we could not have viable colonies on any of the other planets, no the way people really want to live. There is some scientific interest and that's why there are facilities on the Moon, Mars and Titan but in general what it would take to grab people's attention and get the next wave of expansion going was the discovery first of practical interstellar flight and it took somebody that everybody thought was crazy to show that while Einstein was right it was also possible to kind of go around the back door and get places faster than light."

"Then came the debates about what would be found out there. What if we ended up kicking a hornet's nest so to speak and we got ourselves attacked. Thank God nobody worried about that in Columbus' day. We have yet to find any other intelligent life out there but I have to think if there was somebody out there that war like and hungry we'd have heard by now. A lot of arguments went up also about what if there was nothing out there to find. What if Earth was the only habitable planet? Again in the end logic prevailed over government bureaucrats trying to cover their asses. It's been a long struggle. First to get governments to work together for all mankind, and that's still far from perfect and second to get past the bureaucracy and actually get something done."

The riots of a few years ago that spread all around the world did have their positive effect in cutting bureaucratic waste of both time and money. The people that moan about how much this project is costing need to look at what has been spent to eliminate hunger in third world countries, hell we've gone a long way to eliminate that designationitself.

"That all has gotten us to this point but for some of us the changes are too slow and too shallow. I look forward to forging a new world according to the charter that has been drawn up among the chosen settlers. It should be a much better place than good old Earth and with luck it always will be. I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think you will see a wave of pioneers now as humanity once again expands his horizons." With that Carlos sat back and there was obvious agreement at the table. Before anybody else could say anything the preparation for launch warning was given and everybody scattered to their assigned places as mankind prepared to begin scattering from Earth to the Stars. The Pioneer spirit was and is alive and well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Running Away From Life

This was an interesting story for me to re-read right now. It's another I barely remember writing but on re-reading it I like it. It could use polishing but over all I like it. I'm wondering if I wrote it targeted for somebody I knew back then. If so I can't remember who. It was written in early December of 1999 for the AOL short story contest and the theme that week was "Wisdom".

Being a couple of days before Thanksgiving I was not surprised that the airport was packed so I was happy just to find a seat. It didn't look like the people on either side would want to talk which was fine with me since I was beat after a long road trip. It wasn't long though until I heard the lady sitting next to me sobbing quietly. Looking over, not really wanting to get involved I saw that she looked like she had been crying quite a bit.

She looked over at me and I must have let my aggravation show because she dabbed her eyes and tried to smile and said, "I'm sorry, I'll try to be quiet".

Instantly I felt like a real heel and found myself saying, "Don't be silly, it's not your fault, is there anything it would help to talk about?"

"I don't know that there is anything to talk about. I'm just so fed up with life that I can't take it anymore," she sobbed, "I'm leaving my husband and my kids and you probably think that makes me a terrible person."

"What happened? Have you told him or are you just leaving?"

"I've threatened to leave for months now and he doesn't take me seriously. He barely notices I'm there. He just works all the time and when he does come home he plays with the kids and then when we have time alone he falls asleep. I am stuck with them all damn day and he comes home and does whatever they want and brings them things and I'm just sick of being the bad guy all the time."

"I'm going to start over and make a life for myself. I don't have one now I just have this existence where I wait on my husband and my kids and do PTA and crap like that. I want to live for myself. I want somebody to notice me and love me like I want to be loved. I want to find a little romance maybe. I want to feel like a woman."

She took more tissues from her purse and blew her nose and I was trying to think of just what to say when I heard a voice behind us and turning found it was a man sitting in the seats to our back turned around saying, "Honey I know just how you feel but I can assure you that you will regret it in later years."

"How can you be so damned sure? You don't live the hell I do" She said to him. As she talked I took a good look at him. He was I'd guess 60 or so with solid gray hair dressed in a suit. If I'd had to pick one word to describe him I'd have picked distinguished.

"Will you listen to me for a few minutes Ma'am and then decide if I know what I'm talking about or not. Maybe your situation is different, let me tell you my story and you decide ok?

She, obviously with reluctance and resignation, agreed to hear him out. Then he began to talk.

"I was about your age and I just sort of woke up one day and felt like I was getting nowhere. I had a house, a wife, two kids and a job I hated. I saw no way to change things and I got really depressed. I wanted to quit my job and try something else but my wife was afraid of what might happen if it didn't work. I got more and more bitter until I wasn't even being a good daddy."

"That's when like you I said I was going to chuck it all and start over. I'd gotten so bad my wife never even looked for me I don't think, just went straight to a lawyer who tracked me down to serve the papers."

"Over the years I did find a job I like and that I'm very good at. To look at me you'd think I was very successful. All that's on the outside though. I never found another woman like my wife. I guess I was afraid to try again. And then there were the kids. I got to thinking of them growing up without me. I tried to see them once but I'd given them up and they and their mom resented that and do to this day. I did what I could getting what clippings of them I could from the local newspaper and all but it's not the same. Those kids grew up without me, resenting me and I found out I missed them so bad."

I also learned that sooner or later all life is the same routine. I still had a job and the bills to pay and the house to fix up and the car to keep running only I no longer had somebody to talk to about it or kids to take pleasure in. When you give up all that you give up a piece of yourself honey.  I don't know if you think this applies to you or not but if I can give you a bit of the wisdom of my experience then I'm happy."

The man finished his story and without waiting her to say anything got up and walked away and was swallowed by the crowd. I don't know what she thought, she was crying more than ever. Our plane was called and as I was about to board I saw her still sitting there and then heard a commotion and saw a young man come running down the concourse. She stood and he pulled her into his arms and they cried together.  I have to think that maybe everything was ok with her since she never got on the plane.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Way We Were

This story is one I thought about not posting here. It was written just after Thanksgiving of 1999. The Theme was, predictably, "the way we were". The story is not as autobiographical as it may appear and yet there are a few people out there who know exactly who I wrote this story for. As I re-read it again just now I nearly decided not to post it but what the heck, the person that it was written for may actually read it.

Personal Journal Entry  7/24/2028

Thirty years ago to the day that I was with you my love.  Can you believe it? Oh how I wish I could talk to you about it in person not through my journal but its now been almost 25 years since we lost contact when you asked me not to write again so you could fix your marriage. Oh I don't blame you, it allowed me to work on mine and its doing wonderfully. We're both now past our 50th anniversaries, or I assume you are. I wish I knew.

Remember when we met there on AOL? I remember you answering my pen pal ad and the first words in your letter were that you were not interested in romance. I remember how relieved I was, a wonderful long literate letter and no chance I'd be hurt again. Oh we tried to hard, nearly two weeks we wrote every day until you asked me how I felt about you and I took a chance and told you that although I'd tried not to I'd fallen in love with you. I was so
scared when I sent that letter. How can I explain the high when I got your reply that admitted your love for me also? It was such a wonderful feeling.

I remember all our conversations about how we merely completed each other's marriages and how we'd never do anything to hurt one another, how nobody else would ever understand loving two people at once. Well in the end we've been proven right. I still to this day love you even after all this time. Ultimately we did improve our marriages. I just wish I could still have what we had.

I loved all the letters. The morning chats. The evening chats. Making love to you online, something else nobody would understand. The other things we did to express our love.

And then 30 days ago today I laid eyes on you for the first time. What a glorious week we had together. It was all so wonderful. We made so many plans for the next time and future times not dreaming that this was to be the one and only time. I could regret that but what we did have was so wonderful I'd rather dwell on that.

I wonderlove do you think of me as I do of you? I'm nearly 70 now and still I think of you and feel young again. I remember how young you made me feel then and you still do to this day. Do you find yourself seeing something and saying to yourself "he'd like that" I do that daily.

Even though things changed years ago I never tire of thinking back as I did today and remembering the way we were.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Under Construction

This is a brand spanking new story that I just wrote and posted in the Short Stories board Under Construction. I wanted to cross post it here too though for anyone that is reading this journal who may not be, and probably isn't, reading the Short Stories board. It is not autobiographical, I swear. It just touches on some topics of interest coupled with something that the person who told me about this new folder in the Short Story board said about the area being under construction. This was what my fevered brain came up with on short notice.

     Kyle stood leaning on a railing, his hair uncharacteristically over his ears, a two day growth of beard on his face, his clothes wrinkled because he had not been out of them in two days. How can things fall apart so fast Kyle wondered watching the bright sun sparkle off the water of the Gulf of Mexico? A year ago he had been on top of the world, now he felt like he had nothing. What was he even doing here?
    He was so deep in thought he hadn't noticed anybody joining him as he leaned on the boardwalk railing until they spoke. "Partner you look like you're doin' some heavy duty thinkin'. Maybe it's not my place but sometimes it helps to talk it out and you don't seem like the type to talk to the bartender although I've done that in my life too."
    Kyle started and looked over with more irritation on his face than he really intended. He found himself looking into the seamed leathery face of a man who'd been on the same poker table a couple of times in the past couple of days.
    The man held up his hands, "Hey partner if you don't want to talk about it that's fine. I know for a fact that it's likely screwing up your poker game. I've watched you play over the past few days and you're far better than you've been playing. You've been making some pretty dumb mistakes."
    Kyle felt himself flushing with anger and then realized that the guy was right on the money. He sighed and nodded, "Yeah I've got my poker game as screwed up as the rest of my life and that's about all I've got left right now. Now I don't even have that."
    The man ran a hand through is snowy white hair and grinned at Kyle. "Partner you don't even know what screwed up is I don't think. In my 72 years I've screwed up more than you could ever dream of."
    Kyle looked at him, his anger growing.
    The man shook his head. "Walk with me partner." He motioned down the boardwalk and started to walk.
    Kyle stood there for a minute. "Oh what the hell." He walked after the man, catching him quickly.
    "Tell me about it partner," The man said not even looking over.
    Kyle took a deep breath and began hesitantly at first but then it all began to spill out.
    He told the man it had started a bit over a year ago when he'd been laid off. Even as he said it though he realized that it had been coming. The software industry as he knew it had been dying for years now as more and more work was shipped off shore. He'd found himself, at 50, laid off and virtually unemployable.
    Oh he'd tried to find something, he'd tried hard. The strain had been too much for his marriage though and three months before his wife of 30 years had told him that she felt they had just grown apart and now that the children were grown and out of the house it was time to go their separate ways. He'd been stunned by how casually she'd seemed to just walk away from a 30-year commitment.
    Kyle had taken the last of his settlement from the layoff and the divorce and decided to try making his long time poker hobby support him. He had thought it would be fairly easy, he'd always been a consistent winner in his home games and forays to other poker venues as well as online. Somehow that was not working out. Now that he needed it his game seemed to be letting him down and he was growing more and more frustrated.
    "Partner if you thought playing poker for a living was gonna be easy you got you another think coming." The man said. "I've been doing it, off and on, for the better part of 40 years now and it's a rough life."
    "I guess I can't hack that either," Kyle said, then kicked out at a bench as they walked by it. "Jesus I wish I was just dead."
    "Well that's an alternative. It even looks like the easy way out," The man said. "Hell I guess I've tried to kill myself a few times."
    Kyle looked over sharply at the guy.
    "Oh I didn't take a razor to my wrists or nothin'," The man said holding his wrists out. "I did it slower. I've tried to do it with drugs and booze, women and cars. Then I wised up, a little at least."
    "Well sure as hell doesn't seem like I've got much to live for," Kyle said with a snort.
    "What do you think of this scenery," the man asked motioning toward the ocean. The sun was sinking almost directly in front of them as they walked west along the beach into it. "Pretty ain't it?"
    Kyle looked over at the guy kind of strangely. "Yeah, I love it here. I've always loved this area. That's why I'm here. It seemed like a good place to start over. I guess I was wrong."
The man snorted. "Do you want to start over or do you want to feel sorry for yourself and take the easy way out?"
      Kyle's anger flashed. He stopped and glared at the man. "I don't need this crap. I can feel bad enough all by myself."
      "Yeah you're doing a great job of it." The man agreed. "What you're doing a lousy job of is moving on. Things changed. You got a crappy deal. Now it's up to you as to how you deal with it. Do you want to just waller around feeling sorry for yourself or do you want to do something about it?"
    Kyle took a deep breath and bit back and angry reply. "I don't even know where to start.
    "Well looks to me like you've kinda started," The man said. "Do you like playing poker?"
    Kyle shrugged. "yeah I do."
    "Are you any good?" the man asked.
    "What do you think, you've played with me."
    "I asked you first," The man grinned.
    Kyle glared at him and then snapped, "Yeah I do think I'm good at it."
    The man looked at him for a long minute making Kyle uncomfortable.
    They were walking up to an area where the boardwalk was torn up and they had to go down onto the beach itself to get around it.
    "See this here," The man said motioning toward the torn up boardwalk.
    Kyle nodded, "What about it."
    "What does that sign say" The man asked pointing toward an orange sign.
    "Under construction. So what?" Kyle asked. "It's not like they really need a sign, it's pretty damn obvious."
    "Well some people can't see what's under their nose," The man said looking pointedly over at Kyle."
      "So why don't you tell me what I'm missing here," Kyle said waving at the torn up boardwalk. What difference does it make to me if the damn boardwalk it torn up or not?"
      "That's your life partner," The man said. "It's torn all to hell. It's up to you now. Do you give up on it and throw it away or do you put you up a sign that says 'under construction' and build you a new life."
    Kyle just looked at the old man. The old man calmly met his angry gaze. As they looked into each other's eyes Kyle realized the man was right. It was like a light had suddenly gone on.
    The old man smiled then, "Decided to fight huh? Good for you. I'm going back now. I'm too durned old to walk this far. You keep a'goin' though and give it some thought."
      The man turned on his heels and began to make his way back to where they had come from. When Kyle started to follow the man turned and shook his head pointing down the beach. "I done what I could for now. It's up to you now."
    Kyle sighed, turned, then turned back and said, "Thank you."
    The man just nodded, "For what it's worth you are."
    "Huh?" Kyle asked, puzzled.
    "Good at poker." The old man said. "You can be very good if you decide to be. I think you'll make at whatever you decide to if you really love it. A fool could tell you were done with that other part of your life. See you at the tables partner"
    Kyle stood and watched the old man trudge back to the boardwalk. Then he turned and his eye caught the sign again. "Under Construction" Kyle said. "Why the hell not?"

    Hours later he took a seat at a poker table. He was clean-shaven, he'd had his hair cut and was wearing the sharpest outfit he owned. The old man was there, this was the main game and he seemed to always be in it. He looked over at Kyle and nodded. Then tapped his shirt pocket.
    Kyle looked down at his shirt and grinned at the old man. He reached up and flipped the pin he was wearing at the old man as the action at the table paused, the other players watching them quizzically.
    The old man looked at it. It was a small silver pin with "Under Construction" engraved on it. The old man snorted and looked up at Kyle, sending the pin spinning back to land on the felt directly in front of Kyle.
    "Been there partner, done that. It's your time now," The old man said. "Now lets get this game going and play some poker."
    Kyle nodded at the man then grinned at the dealer as he pinned the pin back to his pocket. "Shuffle up and deal, life's too short to just sit here."

Choices in the Smoke

Now that I'm back from Biloxi it's time to begin posting my old stories once again. This one was written in November of 1999. The theme was "Smoke". I didn't really remember this story but on re-reading it I kinda like it. Hopefully you will too.

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All around me was smoke. I could see nothing but that. It was light and I could see, just not anything but smoke. What? No I know it was not fog it was smoke. I don't know how I know I just know, maybe because it didn't feel damp. It really doesn't matter. Walking didn't seem to do any good so I finally just stood there.

I heard a rushing sound and looked toward it and there was a dark stain or something swirling in the smoke in that direction. It was getting bigger and just looking at it filled me with dread. I tried to back up and run away but the dark smoke soon engulfed me. I looked around and I could see the smoke swirling around but leaving breaks now and then. I looked at them. The one that looked closest got clearer. I saw a little boy in a store take a pack of gum and put it in his pocket. Then the smoke obscured the scene. Another clearing, this one a car on a dark road trying to turn around and knocking over a mail box then leaving in a cloud of dust. Again smoke soon obscured the scene. Then I knew what I was seeing because I saw myself as a college student in a scene I recognized. Unsure of myself I looked at somebody's test paper for the one and only time in my life.

I tried not to look but could not not look if you know what I mean. Even though I wanted desperately to get out of here to not have to see all the things I was seeing whether I wanted to or not. I told myself it must be a nightmare and not to panic, that I'd wake up soon.  That didn't do much good. I saw more and more. Little things that hardly seemed so bad as well as things I'm not going into here because I'm so ashamed of them.

Not panicking didn't work though. Soon I was in a sweat and felt like a trapped animal, looking for any way out. I remember thinking "God I've got to get out of here". I looked for a way out but saw only more and more hideous things including some that I know I'dnot done. Was it things I was going to do? I hope not, it was horrible!

Just then I saw a small light spot in the dark smoke. It seemed to be driving the dark smoke away. Soon there was a light area that like the dark had gaps and I could begin to see scenes. I saw me freeing a trapped squirrel from a net over my tomatoes. I saw me changing that lady's tire for her in the rain. More and more scenes like this came to the forefront and the light area spread. It did not eliminate the dark but it got seemingly equal time. Here too I saw things I know I didn't do or hadn't yet done.

What was this? It really didn't feel like a nightmare. I haven't read "A Christmas Carol" for ages and that's sort of what this reminded me of with the Ghosts of Christmas past and so on. Only there were no ghosts. I did think I caught fleeting glances of dark and light figures. They were too fleeting to be sure though so maybe I didn't. I remember wondering when I would wake up. All around me now was about half light and half dark mixed all together now where it was hard to see the good without having to look the bad in the face. I tried my best only to look at the light scenes since the feeling of comfort was, well comforting.

Then it all started like fading. It got more and more indistinct. Then I woke up here. I don't remember going to the hospital. I was out for my morning walk. Now I find myself here and you tell me I passed out. Well I don't remember. I remember what I dreamed only it is so much more real than a dream. I think maybe I was sent a message. Out of the smoke I think I was told that I'm not getting any younger and I've got a choice in my life in the things that I do and that I will be accountable for them when all is said and done. Well I was there, I got a sneak preview and I know which I'd rather be faced with for eternity.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Lifetime of Cats and dogs

This is more essay than story and that could be one reason it was not selected for any sort of award. Of course the fact that there were always lots of good stories back then might have had something to do with it. It was written in August of 1999 and the theme was, naturally, "Cats and Dogs".

Lots of things have had their impact on my life in the past 41 years. There have been births and deaths. Friends come and friends go. There have been disasters both large and small, some funny now some never will be. But of all the things that have impacted my life pets have been one of the most on going influences over time and have been probably the most varied.

The earliest dog I can remember, actually two dogs, and these are really hazy as I was very young were a Chow named Weary and a Dachshund named Rudolph. I remember they were not little kid dogs. One of them at least nipped me on one or more occasions for my efforts to be friendly as kids will. Mostly I remember this pair because they were my parents "kids" before they had kids just as Lefty and Summer and Fuzzy, Felix, Oscar and Splotch were our kids
before we had our son Lee. Weary I remember was thus named because of one ear that refused to stand up, I honestly don’t remember but then I’ve never forgotten him either.

I mentioned our "kids" before kids so I’ll jump way ahead to that. Does everybody treat their pets like kids before they have kids? Maybe we’re just weird.  The first was a male cat named Fuzzy. He was the first cat I’d owned how was I supposed to know that they don’t keep that kitten fuzz when they grow up? He quickly lost it and became a very large Tom cat. The independent sort he loved to be outdoors and would not be denied. He would push screens out of the windows to get out. The apex of his career as a screen remover was when he learned to get them out from the outside. My wife was being dropped off on the way home from work one day when they had the opportunity to catch Fuzzy in the act. He jumped up more than midway up the screen, hooked his claws in and allowed himself to fall backward, pulling the screen out of the window with him. Is it any wonder we just started leaving one screen out?

After Fuzzy grew out of kittenhood  we still felt paternal I guess but as no children were in the plan yet, us still being in college, we decided on another kitten. We went to pick one out and there were only two left. As we played with them it was so hard picking one. They were so very different in looks and actions. I learned a very important part of choosing kittens that day. Never go when there are only two left. We ended up taking both.  In all fairness I have no regrets. That is how Felix and Oscar, our very own Odd Couple came into our lives.

Oscar was a loveable slob, fuzzy gray and charmingly clumsy. He never changed except to get larger. He was probably my favorite cat of all time. In truth my favorite pet of all time. He had a knack for getting in trouble and needing to be rescued. I got him down from the roof several times when he would follow Felix or Fuzzy up there and not quite figure out how to get down. It was also Oscar that one morning awoke me by standing on my chest meowing pitifully as I came to consciousness smelling used gear oil and feeling a warm wet liquid dripping on my chest. Opening my eyes I was met with a cat that could have been the poster child for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He had somehow contrived to fall into a bucket of oil I had drained from a car’s rear axle and not disposed of right away, another lesson learned. After a  panicked call to the vet I found myself trying to keep himself from licking the oil off and washing him with GO-JO hand cleaner and Lava soap. He must have known he needed help though because he didn’t even fight it. Unfortunately Oscar exhibited poor judgement to the end finally picking the wrong time to try to cross a street. I still think of him from time to time, I still think of that day I lost him and it still makes me sad.

Cats were not our only "kids" during that period though we got a dog that we named Leftover because, well, she was. When we went to pick them out we actually picked another of the dogs but had to come back another time to get them. The day came to go get her and it turned out that all the pups but one had gone off somewhere with their mom and could not be found. We took good old Leftover then and she was a find if somewhat strange dog for over 13 years.

As a puppy she was of course raised with our cats. She came to think she was either a cat or a person but never for a minute did she think she was a dog. A few years later we decided she was lonely now that we were both working day shift and for the first time ever there was not somebody home with her most of the time. As a result we got Summer. She was supposed to be a Lab but clearly as she grew had more Setter in her than lab with long flowing hair. She did love to swim though. As a puppy in our brand new house she discovered she could take her head turn it sidewise on a newly planted Azalea and when she straightened up the plant popped right out of the ground and she had a toy to play with. She did this on roughly half of the 60 or so azaleas we planted. In spite of this she grew to live a long full life.

All these wonderful animals are now gone. We have a "real" child now almost 12 and a new crop of animals every bit as entertaining.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Christmas at the Battle of the Bulge

This story was written around Christmas time in 1999. The theme of the week was "Traditions". This story is slightly out of order in terms of when it was written but I wanted to post one that I liked. This one was a platinum honorable mention that week, essentially 4th place I guess.

Private Jim Lynch cringed as yet another round of artillery whistled overhead and landed nearby. After advancing swiftly from the beaches at Normandy, Christmas Day of 1944 found his unit pinned down somewhere in the Ardennes region of Northern France, Southeast Belgium, and Northern Luxembourg somewhere near the Meuse River.

"Hell of a way to spend Christmas isn't it Private" Sergeant Jerry Rowland said looking at Lynch as he huddled with his squad. The weather was cold, windy and snowing. A bitter gloomy day had turned into a cold depressing night.

"Sure is Sarge" Jim answered. "Do you think we're really surrounded?" The worry was evident in his voice and was echoed on the faces of most of the rest of the men.

"Well it looks that way but it won't last long," Sergeant Rowland confidently told his men hoping to reassure them. "There's bound to be a break out soon."

"Its hard to even believe it is Christmas" Jim said. "Cold as hell, dark as pitch and the damn Germans throwing artillery at us just to keep us awake probably. I remember how I used to try to get out of spending Christmas with all my relatives. I'd do anything to be with them now."

"I can picture them now, my dad in the living room puffing on his pipe the younger kids running around." Jim went on. "The house would be almost stiflingly warm even though it's cold out because the oven and stove have been on all day with Mom and my Grandmother cooking since before dawn.  They would be sitting down to dinner about now. A ham and a turkey and all the fixings, oh man I can taste it now."

Three explosions in quick succession nearby stopped Jim's musings. The silence after the explosions was almost deafening but at least, Jim thought, it was better than hearing the screams of wounded men.

"Knock it off Lynch" somebody said, "We all have family at home warm and comfortable while we freeze our butts off here. I for one don't even want to think about it. I'll just be happy to be alive next Christmas."

There was silence for a while and then Sergeant Rowland spoke up quietly "Well not all of us have family home waiting for us. I can't remember ever having a Christmas like that. My dad left when I was little and my mom never scraped by enough to do anything like that for us. We were lucky to have food and be able to get the house even sort of warm. My fondest memories of Christmas I guess are of Christmases in the NCO club where it was warm and we did have decent chow and the company of the only close family I've ever known.  Bitch all you want but most of you guys will live to see next Christmas and I bet you'll be spending it back home as the hero come home and they'll make a big deal out of you and all. You're lucky to have it and I'll be back in the NCO club and lucky to be there too. This damn war is going to make a lot of people have a new respect for the traditions they took for granted, now shut the hell up and try to get some sleep"


"I just don't know if I belong here," Sergeant Jerry Rowland said.

"Nonsense," replied the gray haired lady on the other side of the table. "Jim's letters all along told us all about you. We already feel like you're one of the family now stop arguing with me." The nods and smiles all up and down the table gave proof that everybody seemed to be in agreement with her.

"Yes Ma'am," He replied.

"This is a lot better place to spend Christmas than last year ain't it Sarge?" Jim asked with a smile. "or even better than spending it alone in the NCO club I hope.

"I have to give you that kid, and I want you all to know I appreciate it." Rowland said. Looking to the head of the table and Jim's father he said, "May I propose a toast sir?"

"Certainly," Jim's father answered with a smile.

"To friends, new friends and old, those that are with us and those who we left behind and to traditions both old and new."

The response was a murmur of "here here's" and a clinking of glasses as a group began caroling outside on the street of the house where inside it was warm cozy and full of family and friends, old and new.

Exits, Exits, Exits

The theme for this week in 1999 was "Exits". I'm not sure what I was aiming for with this. I think it was supposed to be sort of a Dave Barry like column rather than a true story. Again, this is not one of my better ones, or one of my favorites.

Life is full of exits. There’s exits from buildings, exits from interstates, exits from relationships, exits even from life itself. Sometimes an exit is a really good thing and leads to somewhere you really want to go. Like when you’ve been driving and drinking too much soda and you’ve just GOT to go you’re glad to see an exit with any place that might just possibly have a restroom or when you get into a relationship with somebody you really shouldn’t have and you take the first available exit.

All exits don’t lead to good places though and sometimes you don’t have a choice. You know relationships work both ways and there are two people and maybe she is looking to show you the exit. Either that or her husband plans to show both of you the exit. Sometimes if you’re not paying attention on the interstate you end up stuck going off an exit you didn’t want and that only happens when it leads to somewhere that you look around and really start to fear that if you stop your tires will be immediately removed and that you may have even found an exit on the highway of life.

What about exits that you’re not allowed to use? Don’t you hate to see an exit sign pointing to an area marked "authorized personnel only"? Does that mean you can’t leave until you suck up enough to get authorized? Or when an exit has the little thingy that says open only in case of emergency, alarm will sound. You DO know what’d behind those don’t you? A fire exit you say? HAH the way it works is they KNOW somebody will have to try it. You open the door to sneak out the exit without paying figuring even with the alarm you can run away before they catch you. Well what you find is a puddle outside the door. You are committed now the alarm is going off, people are watching you. You gingerly step through the puddle and SPLAT find out that its 6 feet deep and filled with run off from the parking lot, water mixed with oil and antifreeze. Your clothes are ruined, you’re a laughing stock and you STILL have to pay.

Most exits have signs. "I-10 1 mile ahead", or "Emergency Exit Only". Life should maybe have those signs and people would maybe not take some exits they didn’t mean to really. Signs like "Smoking Exit 20 years ahead" or "Eat that  and exit those pants next week" or maybe "Ignore wife Divorce 10 months ahead".

But then we’ve all driven the nations interstates so we know how well people read signs don’t we? When’s the last time you were driving down the road and saw some idiot swerve across from the left lane across 4 lanes of traffic to make an exit just in time? And what do we do when we see that? We talk about what an idiot he is and ask doesn’t he ever read signs and….oh crap! Thats my exit! I can make it all the way across if I jerk the wheel hard. Why don’t they put up better signs? Now what was I saying about that idiot back there?

And even this story has an exit although its called..

The end.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Teachers are Everywhere

I just realized that I've not posted a story today. I wanted to post one or two a day until they are all here. I think I may also have to write the next part to the first story I posted here, "The Meeting". Almost everybody that has ever read it has asked, "What happens next." To tell you the truth I am not sure. That's the way it is with my stories much of the time, they take on a life of their own seemingly. I do want to find out what happens next so I'll work on that.

Enough of that though and on with another old story. It was written in November of 1998. The theme this week was "Teachers". Again this is not one of my favorites. It lacks any tension at all and seems a bit "preachy" I have a feeling I was actively engaged in trying to teach Lee to like to read when I wrote this. He reads so well but doesn't like to do it. I cannot fathom how anybody can not like to read. Oh well. I hope you enjoy this story for all it's not my best effort by far.

"Dad I can’t wait until I’m done with school." Kevin told his father while watching TV one afternoon.

"Why is that? Is it that bad?"

"Yes!" Kevin said emphatically. "I hate teachers and I hate learning stuff"

"You do huh?" his dad said. "What about your hockey coach? You like learning to get better at hockey don’t you?"

"Well yeah but that’s not what I meant" Kevin said.

"I know what you meant Kevin. You meant you’re tired of school. You’ll have teachers all your life, even you’ve been a teacher before and you will be again."

"No I haven’t! I’m a kid not a teacher"

"You taught me to play your new Nintendo game didn’t you?"

"Yeah but I guess I’m not a very good one, you’re lousy at it." Kevin said.

"But you didn’t give up on me did you? That’s a very good thing" his Dad told him, "You’ll find teachers everywhere you look. I have teachers in my life, besides you I mean. I’ve had very good friends who have taught me a lot. Learning is not just about multiplication tables Kevin. That stuff you learn in school is by and large stuff you will need to know later in life but mostly what you are learning in school right now is how to learn."

"Once you learn how to learn you can conquer the world. If you know how to unlock the power of the information around you then you will be able to do anything you want to do with your life. Always seek out people that know more than you and let them teach you what they know."

"If you want to make friends find somebody with lots of friends then watch and listen to them and see how they do it. Let them teach you. If you want to play hockey better find people that are better hockey players and let them be your teachers if they are willing."

"I hope you’ll never quit learning Kevin. But I hope something else too. I hope you’ll never stop being a teacher. You have a lot to teach even now."

"What could I teach Dad?" Kevin asked looking interested.

"You can teach somebody not as good as you to play hockey. You can help teach younger kids to read. That’s what you’re doing with your Reading Buddy program at school you know. You teach me to remember what its like to be a kid, Kevin. You teach me to lighten up and live for the moment sometimes. Teachers will be everywhere in your life Kevin if you’ll let them in. And you’ll never run out of things to teach or people to teach things to. The thing is
to learn to look around you and see who can be your teachers and who you can be a teacher too. You have to do both Kevin."

"Wow Dad I’m a teacher!" Kevin said. "And you know what?"

"What Kev?"

"You’re my favorite teacher"

"Thanks Kev" his dad said as he ruffled Kevin’s hair and walked away with a smile on his face.

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Your Own Back Yard

This story was written in November of 1998. The theme this week was "Treasure". This is not one of my favorites. Seemed to me to lack any real punch.

"Hey Mike look what I found in Mom’s chest. Its like something a flashback of that old movie Bridges of Madison County." Sarah said holding up a couple of yellowing pieces of paper.

    "What is it?"

    "Its a letter Dad wrote to Mom before he died. It was part of what her will told us to read"

    "Well read it then," Mike said.

    Sarah read it as Mike looked over her shoulder.

Dear Carol,

    Its the eve of our 50th anniversary, something that for a long time I never thought would happen. We’ve had our share of problems over the years my dear but largely due to your patience and just plain stubbornness we made it to this point.

    I want to write this so you’ll know just how I feel now and how even in the worst of times I still loved you. I guess our worst period, at least in my view was just before our 20th anniversary. I know you’ve long since apologized for your part in my unhappiness at that point.

    I was at a point in my life where I wanted to find something more. I thought something was missing from my life. I was sure of it. I didn’t feel like an effective husband or lover and when I had the chance to find out if it was me you know I took it. And again a few months later I spent time with another friend.

    When I told you after that you were so understanding and supportive. I thought then that you would make the changes I wanted you to make and when you didn’t I got angry and stayed that way for a long time. You wanted your turn to see what it was like with somebody else and I could not say no.

    For a while we explored that. Together yet each on a different path. I learned a lot, I got hurt a lot. You helped me through it and still I got angry when you did not give me what I wanted and thought I had to have. I know I caused us a lot of grief. I know you were trying your best within the limits of who you were. Eventually we gave that up, settling back into each other.

    I tried so hard to find what I thought I was missing through others. I made friends and some of them were lovers. Almost all of them went by the wayside. Most of the time I drove them away. I realize that now. The same attitude that never quite drove you away drove all the others away. That should have told me something right there. They were the false gold at the end of the rainbow. Glittering gems that turned out to be worthless. They caused
me such heart ache the friends and lovers alike. I made very few real friends I see. Yet there were some.

    One you know has stuck with me all these years. Still writing faithfully even though we’ve not been together in person for almost 20 years. I nearly left you then after 30 years to chase a foolish dream. She proved herself a real friend doing one of the hardest things she ever did and not letting me do it. It nearly cost me that friendship but she like you persevered and has now remarried and is as happy as you and I.

    The kids grew up and moved out and we grew together. At times we’ve still had our differences. But since that time 20 years ago I’ve not strayed my love. Oh you share my heart with another but you’ve know that for years and you know well there is enough love there for you. It still makes my heart leap with joy when I hear you’ve told somebody how much I love you.

    Our friends all say we’re the perfect couple and maybe they’re right but if they only knew what went into it! Well my love we have our secrets you and I but we also have our love. I’ve learned to accept you the way you are and you have done the same for me. We rarely fight anymore. We’re comfortable with each other and in our love for each other.

    My love this is hard for me. I know I’m dying. You know I’m dying. Yet you’re bearing up well. The kids will help you and be there for you. I want you to know that I realize after all those years of digging for treasure trying to find the key to make me happy. After all the times I was with somebody else in search of something you were perfectly willing to give me yourself, I want you to know that I am very well aware that I know now that my own
life’s treasure was in my own back yard all along. You’re the gem that brings fire to my night, the gold that lights my days. Never think for a minute that whatever I did or whoever I was with that I ever loved you any the less. Its a pity to finally realize where my treasure was but its nice to finally know too.

All my love my dear wife, happy 50th anniversary and thank you for giving me your life.

Your loving husband.

    "Wow" Mike said as they finished.

    "Yeah" Sarah sniffled.

    "I never had a clue there was anybody but Mom" Mike said.

    "Really? I knew, I even talked to mom and she said she knew but had to let him find his own way. I’m just glad they got where they got before he died." Sarah said. "I know mom wanted us both to read this to hit home the message she always tried to teach, your greatest treasure is in your own backyard"

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Lovers and Apparitions

I'm posting this story, which was written in January of 2000, now in response to Jennifer's comment about my "Conundrum" entry in my "My Journey" journal. The theme this week was phenomena.

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I drove back into that little town on a day just like the one I'd left 25 years ago. It was a raw, bleak, blustery day with the snow still hanging on in the shadows and with puddles and mud everywhere else it seemed.  I checked into the same hotel although it had changed hands and names at least once in the intervening quarter century. I asked for and got the same room although it earned me a curious look from the desk
clerk who decided apparently it was too much trouble to ask about it though.

That night I saw it for the first time. The room had changed of course yet it was pretty much the same. I looked up from writing in my journal and could swear I saw her standing in the short hallway into the room. She looked just as she had the last time I saw her, her hair the same way, the same warm, happy smile. And then as I went to stand up it faded, the vision or apparition or whatever it was.

I'm no longer young now at 65 maybe my mind is playing tricks with me. I have just recently lost my wife and now find myself in a town I last visited when I had an affair a quarter of a century ago. It was brief in the scheme of things. We were in contact by email only a total of two years and only met in person one time yet all this time it has stuck with me. I should not be surprised to see ghosts, she haunted me ever since the week we spent
together even when she was forced to sever all contact with me.

The next day I drove as best I could recollect it, the route she took me when showing me the area so long ago. The shop she worked at is still there. I stopped and looked in but could not go in. I swear I saw her there, again just as she was so long ago, yet when I touched the doorknob the vision was gone.

My sleep that night was haunted by memories. I woke with moonlight streaming in the window and saw her on the bed next to me. Curled in sleep as I'd once seen her looking like a cat, comfortable and content in her sleep. Afraid to move lest the vision dissolve again I drank it in with my eyes. The pale skin was the same I remembered, the swell of her breasts, even the freckles looked hauntingly familiar. I ached to reach for her, to hold her in my arms one more time.  I could feel her hands on me as she laid in my arms her fingernails tracing little patterns as she rested her head on my chest. I could feel her soft skin under my hands; hear her contented breathing as we just lay there enjoying being together. I reached out to stroke her…and there was nothing there but empty bed. Sighing and fighting back tears for both that loss so long ago and my more recent one I finally fell asleep again.

I drove to the park she had taken me to, finding it with some difficulty. It was much the same. Centering around a dam on the river that ran through a forest of evergreens it stood in sharp contrast to the stark bare trees in nearby areas. Shadowed patches in the trees still had snow on them and as I turned looking across the dam the other way there she was again leaning on the railing looking out over the valley below. Oh how many times I'd seen that in my memory. She had patiently waited while I walked from one side of the dam to the other marveling at the scenery. She had been so thrilled to see how happy I was to see these wonders unfolding in front of me.  I stepped off the curb and sadly the apparition again was gone.

I drove then somewhat aimlessly, or so I thought, thinking of her. Was I crazy? I was not seeing memories, she looked real, solid, and I'd seen people around her that didn't disappear as she did. I decided not to worry about it. I decided just to enjoy it since it was more than I expected. I expected my memories to haunt me but not that. Still it was healing some old wounds as well as some new ones being here.

The road I was on looked familiar and then I was shocked to realize that it was "her" road. I'd not intended to do this. But there was no good way to turn around so I carried on. Then I saw the house on its hill surrounded by all that land. I stopped and looked and there were two people on the porch, a man and a woman with their arms around each other looking off down the road the other direction. Apparently they'd not seen me. She turned and looked down and I knew then it was her. She was older yet unchanged. My breath caught in my chest and I felt the funny sensation of fear and excitement that only something like this can produce and I quickly drove on before she could get a good look in the car.

I stayed one more day but never saw my apparition again. As nearly as I could figure I'd exorcised that ghost. I still had my memories but for the first time in a quarter of a century I was at peace with them. I drove back home to Florida and never looked back with quite the same longing again. That trip helped me deal with both of my losses and both of the ghosts that had been haunting me and enabled me to just move on living my life happily ever after, at least so far.

Home is the Writer

This story is another of my favorites and one I have my eye on as the basis for a novel some day. It was written in November of 1999. John Grisham's book "The Street Lawyer" definately influenced me a good bit on this one. If you have never read it I highly recommend it. By the way, this story is in no way autobiographical. The wife in this story is not Connie. She has never been anything but supportive of my writing. I am very grateful for that.

"So, Margaret do you really want to know how I came to be like I am; or are you just humoring me?" Reilly asked, sipping his coffee. "Either way I appreciate the breakfast."

They were sitting in a small hole-in-the-wall diner a few blocks from the library where they met several weeks ago.  As far as Margaret knew, Reilly never got more than a few blocks from that library.  She looked at him now, considering what he'd asked, and noted the well-worn but reasonably clean sweatshirt hanging from the back of his chair.  That described all Reilly's clothing as well the man himself -well worn but reasonably clean.  The deep lines in his face, along with the gray streaks in his black hair, made him look far older than his professed 43 years.  Although he towered over her barely five-foot frame, she never felt worried or uncomfortable around this man, not like she did when she walked among other homeless people on her way to the library.

"Reilly, what has happened in your life that you can't believe I'm truly interested in you?  I know we have many differences, and I admit I know very little about homeless people other than what I see in the media and downtown.  But seeing you writing here in the library every day fascinates me."

Reilly's mouth formed into a rare smile.  "It's not something I like to think about, let alone discuss.  But I'll tell you, Margaret, because I sense that you do care."

Margaret sat back and focused her eyes on Reilly, listening to him relate his story between bites of his breakfast.

"In fifth grade we had a writing teacher come in twice a week, and she encouraged each child's imagination in the direction of their personal interests.  I wrote some outrageous science fiction and westerns back then, and though it was childish composition, I discovered a love for writing that I have never lost

"I breezed through school essays and writing assignments after that.  And although the frequency decreased as I got older, I would still write myself a story when I was lonely or upset. Usually I was the hero saving the world, or maybe just the pretty lady, from peril.

"Acquiescing to my mother's idea that I should be an engineer like my dad, I went on to college, which is where I met my wife.  She was working toward her CPA, and we fell deeply in love.  I graduated first, taking a job making more money than we ever thought we could spend; but two years later she received her CPA and was immediately earning more than I was.  It never bothered me, but I think that's when her attitude started changing.  She prodded me to work harder and more hours, to impress my employer and get promotions.  All that said to me was that we would have less time together.

"We managed to produce two wonderful children, however; and although she worked a lot, my wife was the best mother she could be.  But their care became primarily my responsibility.  I loved reading to them; and even kept a journal for awhile.  The more my wife succeeded, the more she pushed me to better myself in my job.  But it only made me think further about writing.  Soon I'd pulled out all my old stories, and started writing new ones.

"Then my company decided to close their facilities here and move me to Denver with a big promotion.  I thought my wife would be proud of me and willing to relocate; but she adamantly refused to leave her job.  I took that opportunity to suggest that I stay home with the children and continue my writing.  Although I knew she didn't consider my writing of any value, she liked the part about the children, and agreed.  I should have realized, though, that she would never respect me if she earned all the money, as she equated income with success.  That attitude continued as she started nagging me to get something published and earn some money, despite our present financial stability.  I tried to explain it would be a gradual, learning process, but she didn't understand.  And as we argued more, she seemed to go out of her way to make me feel worthless, and eventually had the kids believing it.

"The big blowup came after I'd been home about four years.  I had become less and less productive, because her disparagement had taken away any belief I'd had in myself.  One night in a rage, she took all my compositions and threwthem in the fireplace, repeatedly pushing me back as I watched handfuls of my life in words go up in flames.  I was devastated and just snapped.  I took my car and left; and I never went back.

"I found a cheap apartment and minimum wage job, feeling demeaned by both.  I was in a deep depression and let her do whatever she wanted, so got almost nothing in the divorce settlement.  The cash I did get was spent quickly as I tried to make ends meet.  Finally it ran out, my car died, I got evicted, and have called the streets of Orlando "home" for the last five years.  I've felt too ashamed to even see my kids since I left.  All I have is my writing; and I've slowly built back up a belief in myself that I'm good enough to be published."

Reilly sat back, coming out of the unfocused stare he had adopted as he related his story.  Margaret was watching him, chewing on her lip, tears falling down her cheeks.

"Reilly, I've read some of your work and know you will make it one day.  Please keep your faith, because you are a great writer and you will prove it to the world."

"Thank you Margaret, and thanks for listening."  Without another word, his face expressionless, Reilly left the diner and walked away carrying everything he owned with him.

Left Alone

That first story that I wrote to post on the AOL board was for the theme "Green". Later that week I wrote another for the same theme.

"Well it looks like its just you and I tonight Dale" Susan said hanging up the phone. "That was mom. They are stuck at the house and can’t make it here tonight."

"Well we’ll just have to make the best of it then" Dale answered. He and Susan were at the family’s cabin in the North Carolina mountains and his wife, her husband and her mother had gone back to town for an art show and gotten caught by bad weather.

"I’m going to get ready for bed then" Susan told him and went up to change. She came down a few minutes later wearing a fantastic emerald green floor length night gown. Dale stared and took it in as she grinned at him and boldly turned a circle modeling it for him. Low cut in front, slit almost to her hips showing off her tanned long legs as she twirled around. It looked fantastic on her Dale thought.

They sat in the living room and talked for an hour or more. At one point Dale put on some music. They turned down the lights and continued to talk.

"Come on Dale just a little" Susan said.

"But we cant’ Susan"

"You big chicken come on" Susan took him by the hand and lead him from the room

An hour later they looked at each other after a wild orgy of self indulgence. They were satiated but still Susan said "Come on Dale just a little more"

"That was incredible, but my god Susan. What are we going to do? We shouldn’t have done that"

"Didn’t you enjoy it Dale?" Susan asked with a smile " I did! Its what they get for not being here"

"But they’re going to kill us Susan"

"Well they’ll be angry but they’ll get over it."

"I think we’re going to pay for it Susan. You’re as green as your nightgown. We really shouldn’t have eaten the whole ice cream cake no matter how good it was"

Friday, June 3, 2005

One of my favorites

If you know me you know I have a lot of trouble identifying just one favorite anything. I can give you a list of my favorite books or movies but really can't say this is my favorite. That is true of my stories as well. This one is definately in the top part of my favorites list though. it was written for the AOL contest in April of 1998, the theme was "Shoes".

     Hey! Yeah you! If you're gonna pick me up and put me in that dark closet you could at least listen a minute. Do you have any idea what I go through in a day? I mean first of all I start my day with the kid saying he can't find me. Its really bad for my self image that considering all I do for the kid he can't find me in the mornings. I mean every morning I'm right where he dumped me last night. Well I am if he hasn't used one of me to squash a spider on the wall and then left me somewhere. How would you like to be smacked into a wall to kill a spider? That spider never did anything to me.

    I'm damp you say? Of course I am. You let him play in the sprinkler. Did he think to take me off? No. So I get dragged through the mud getting covered with the stuff. Then later he complains that I'm uncomfortable because I'm wet. Like that's my fault? There's that self image thing again. And please dear God don't put me in the dryer! How would you like to be bounced around in all that heat for 30 or 45 minutes? Talk about a headache.

    While we're at it lets talk about those scuff marks you're looking at. Wondering how he does that? Well let me tell you its no fun for me! Like yesterday. He's riding that skateboard right? Well how do you think he stops? You got it Ace by dragging ME on the ground. He wouldn't try that one barefooted! Ha! I'd like to see how he felt if he rubbed the top of HIS toes bare. Its ok to do it to me though. And then there is that darn dog. Yeah you taught her to stop chewing on me when he wasn't wearing me and I appreciate that I really do. I mean ewwwww dog slobber….makes me shudder to think of it. But now you really need to teach her not to chew on me when he IS wearing me! I mean he tries to get her to! Crawling away from her like that and laughing when she grabs ME and trips him. Oh you think its funny! I've seen you laughing. Then the slobbery mutt sits under the table and he waves me in front of her face until she takes a bite. Ouch…yuck! More slobber. Does that sound like much of a life to you?

    By the way what are you doing with me? You never pick me up like this. What's that bag? Its got all kinds of old clothes in it. Wait! Is that a shoe box? Hey the kid is in school why am I here. Oh my God…you're giving me away aren't you? I didn't mean it! I love it here. My life is perfect. The kid doesn't mean it. Hey come on take me out of the bag. What's that big box with Goodwill on it? Wait…don't dump me in there……………

My first 'published' short story

This story was written for the AOL Short Story Contest as were most of the stories that will be posted here. There is a different theme every week that is supposed to be incorporated in one way or another in the story. At the time this story was written it had a 1000 word limit, it has since been changed to 2000 words.

I'm posting this first because I wrote it first. I doubt I will hold to a chronological posting strategy however so i'll list the date (when I know it) that I wrote the story.

July 16, 1997 Theme: Green

The closer I got to the mall the more nervous I got. I’d had the entire drive to think about this. What if we hated each other on sight? What if she thought I looked ugly? All my insecurities came flooding out. Well I’d committed to meet her and I could not back out now. What if she wasn’t there? Maybe she chickened out. My mind warred with itself over whether that would be good or whether I would be crushed.

We had met online six months ago, shortly after my divorce. She was a single mother and I was a single father. In all that time, by mutual consent, we’d never exchanged pictures or talked on the phone. She said she preferred to get to know the inner person without distractions. It seemed reasonable to me, although I often wondered if she was hiding something. Yet she seemed so genuine, so open. Well we had finally decided it was time to meet. So here I was, almost 40 and feeling like a teenager about go
to on his first date.

I neared the mall and noticed I was a little over half an hour early. Well I hadn’t wanted to take any chances. As I rolled into the parking lot I started scanning for the green Toyota. Relief and fear washed over me as I saw it parked where I expected it. I pulled up next to it and got my first glimpse of her.

She was beautiful! Her blonde hair a little more of a strawberry blonde than I thought. But as I stood beside her car and she looked up I saw the deep blue eyes I was expecting. I practically fell into them. I was thinking that this was going to work out just fine. From the look on her face she felt the same about me.

"Hi! I’m glad you made it!" She said. "Why don’t we go to the restaurant and talk there."

"That sounds great." I said. "I know you don’t have much time"

"No, unfortunately. Well maybe next time" She said as we walked toward the mall. I could barely keep my eyes off of her.

We talked of generalities at lunch. The conversation just wandering where it would. We were every bit as comfortable in person as we had been online. All too soon it was time to go. We left the restaurant and when our hands brushed together as we walked I took her hand, afraid she would pull away. Instead she squeezed my hand and when I looked over I saw the smile that had so mesmerized me during the whole meal.

We stopped walking them. I turned to face her and asked quietly "May I kiss you?"

"What a gentleman! Nobody’s ever asked like that before." She said, her eyes smiling. "Please do"

We kissed. My lips brushed hers. I felt her respond and quickly the kiss deepened as we explored this new found side of our relationship.

"Wow" she said, breaking the kiss. "I wish I had more time. Like all afternoon. Or all weekend" she chuckled and squeezed my hand. "But I have to go, Dave. I’ll talk to you online tonight."

I just looked at her. I realized that this entire time we had not called each other by name. Dave? Six months and she couldn’t remember that my name was Scott?

"Sharon, who is Dave? You know my name is Scott."

"Huh?" She said, instantly looking really confused. "Are you trying to be funny? My name is Barbara and you darn well know it" She kind of chuckled and said "Game time is over Dave I have to go."

"I’m not playing a game," I was starting to get worried. I pulled out my drivers license and showed it to her. Without a word she showed me hers. Sure enough her name was Barbara. She told me her screen name, and I realized that something was really wrong.

"There is no way that I managed to meet the wrong woman in the right parking lot" I said. "I was to meet you here and look for the green Toyota. I got here early and was really surprised to see you here already."

"Early? You were 15 minutes late. And my car is not green its teal. I told you that."

I looked out into the parking lot then and saw a very green Toyota parked next to the now very blue green looking Toyota I’d seen earlier. There was an impatient looking blonde leaning on it looking curiously our way.